The Western Cape is rich with cricket talent. I would go so far as to say that the best Cape Cobras XI (with all the Proteas present) would beat most national teams in the world.
I was fortunate enough to feature in junior and some senior teams alongside the likes of JP Duminy and Vernon Philander.
I was about six when I took a liking to cricket. It would be 10 years later that I would earn my first provincial colours at 16.
Man, what a proud moment for me! There I was, a youngster from little-known Mandalay Cricket Club, being handed my first blue, white and red of Western Province. The junior accolades kept coming that summer of 1999. I earned under-17A colours for WP and in the national championships that year earned South African U17 colours.
I went on to represent WP on a number of occasions after that. In 2001, I was part of the winning Coca-Cola Week side in Veereniging and went on to make the Under-19 SA Colts team.
I later played for the Western Province Senior B side in 2002, represented WP Amateurs and the SA Universities team in 2005. But my journey came with plenty of challenges. Coming from a single parent household, I didn’t enjoy the perks some of my teammates did. My mother provided me with everything she could afford, but cricket equipment, and daily transportation costs to and from Newlands, proved too much.
The only time I felt equal to other cricketers was during my time at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). As a scholarship holder there in 2003, I learnt that the only way I could improve my game as a spin bowler was to be in an environment where I slept, ate and drank cricket.
The Sports Skills for Life Skills programme (funders of UWC cricket scholarships) taught me a lot about the game and helped take the financial strain off my mom.
My experience at UWC also taught me another valuable lesson – something the game’s administrators need to take into account. I was the best cricketer I could possibly be because I enjoyed the best facilities to enhance my game, received the right nutrition, had a sports psychologist to talk about the mental aspects of the game and received the best coaching.
It was a far cry from life at Mandalay Cricket Club, where we barely received coaching, used a mat as a cricket pitch and ate vetkoeks to silence our hunger.
Once I completed my degree in media communications at UWC, I began working at eNCA as a news intern. Work life put an end to my playing days but I felt I still wanted to contribute to the game.
I felt there was a severe injustice against players from previously disadvantaged areas and that a move into cricket administration would aid my quest to address their struggle. I was fortunate enough to get that opportunity with Western Province cricket.
I served as a board member from 2011 but relinquished my post two years later. The pressures of a demanding media job and the uphill battle to try and transform the sport from the top down took their toll.
I couldn’t stand the politics involved with the game as a 28-year-old among a group of “seasoned” and very stubborn cricket administrators. There was constant fighting over team selections.
I felt deep regret for not bringing about the kind of change I had hoped for for struggling teams in the province.
Do I have regrets? Yes. There are youngsters who, like me, rely on cricket administrators to improve their lives. The game needs leaders who’ll champion the cause of transforming the game so that all South Africans enjoy equal opportunities and privileges, no matter the challenge.
The game is lacking these champions in the boardrooms.
I’m hoping for one more chance one day, to step back into administration and change the game, and create a new environment. An environment where all can enjoy the game.
Source: CAPE ARGUS
Author: Ronald Masinda.